MoEF’s affidavit sticks to its stand on clearance for mines
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests in its affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court, stated it has no objection to the present petition being heard on merit, sticking to its earlier stand that in case a mining project is located within 10 kms from a wildlife sanctuary or national park, environmental clearance should be accorded subject to obtaining clearance from the standing committee of the National Board of Wildlife.
This clearance puts the onus on the mine owner to submit an application and obtain wildlife clearance under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1973 “…as the environment clearance process is a parallel exercise and independent of any other statutory clearances.”
The state is looking at a smaller buffer zone given that most mines would fall within that zone. The affidavit also submits that the project proposal for environment clearance involving forest land is appraised parallel for both environmental clearance and forest clearances.
MoEF affidavit argues that it has advertised in 24 national and regional papers in reference to the Supreme Court order but clarified in an office memorandum that “…clearances from forest and wildlife angle if it involves forest land and or wildlife habitat will not be linked as these clearances are independent of each other and would in any way need to be obtained as applicable to such projects before starting any activity at the site.”
Stating that the Union government has followed due procedures as prescribed in EIA notification 2006, the affidavit says that at the request of the state government (Goa), it had issued a moratorium for new mining activities in 2010 and that a regional environmental impact assessment study due to “mining in Goa region was initiated by respondent no 1 to ensure that the mining activities are done in a scientific and environmentally conducive manner keeping carrying capacity in view.” The affidavit goes on to add that the moratorium will remain till the study is completed on basis of which the decision will be taken.
The work order of the study was issued on 24th March 2011 to the Indian School of Mines and an interim report was submitted in April 2012 with the final report expected to be submitted by August 2013.
Seeking to buttress the argument that it is doing its job, the MoEF affidavit says that the respondent has issued directions for closure and suspension of environmental clearance to five mining project proponents in the state for violations of conditions stipulated in the environmental clearance letter and others based on the report submitted by the regional office of the Respondent no 1 at Bangalore.”
Similarly it issued show cause notices dated 11th Nov 2012 to 49 mining project proponents in Goa based on the report submitted by the regional office for violations of the Environment (protection) Act 1986 by way of undertaking dump mining. [H]